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Title: Faun Pii: Northern Thai Trance Dance Photo Essay 
Author: Sakamoto, Michael
Date: 2009-08-14
Publisher: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Abstract: Founded in the thirteenth Century as a kingdom, the Lanna region covers parts of northern Thailand, Burma, Laos, and a small portion of southern China. Lanna society retains its own alphabet, dialects, visual culture, as well as Animist-based, spiritual practices. Belief systems and ancestor worship rituals possibly over a millennium old are found in various forms throughout the region. Prominent among these is the Chiang Mai region of northern Thailand, including the cities and surrounding areas of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Lampang. Each year in the late spring and early summer months leading up to the Buddhist Lent, dozens of trance dance possession rituals, called Faun Pii, literally “spirit dance,” take place that pay homage to royal, communal, and hero spirits within family, clan, and social lineages.

Faun Pii are believed to descend from ancient, pre-Buddhist, Mon culture rituals but have also syncretized numerous religious practices throughout the centuries. There are three types of possessing spirits in Faun pii: Pii Mod, Pii Meng, and Pii Jao Nai. Pii Mod are generally spirits of ordinary citizens and tend to hew closely to familial and/or clan lineages. Pii Meng spirits are generally members of the royal class. Pii Jiao Nai are spirits of heroes and social leaders and are a relatively recent phenomenon in the last couple of decades. The photos in this essay were taken during pilot fieldwork in Summer 2008 on the traditional background and contemporary gender identity formation in the current population of mediums participating in Lanna trance dance.
Description: This journal has been published at different time periods under the following titles: Explorations: A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Explorations in Southeast Asian Studies, and The Journal of the Southeast Asian Studies Association. Sakamoto, Michael. 2009. Faun Pii: Northern Thai Trance Dance Photo Essay. Explorations: A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 9 (1):109-113.
Sponsorship: The Student Activities Program Fee Board
ISSN: 1945-8606 (Print)
1945-8614 (E-ISSN)
Keywords: Thailand, Dance

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